Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau is ordering that all trains carrying a significant amount of dangerous goods on federal lines slow down, in the wake of a CP crude oil train derailment in Saskatchewan this morning.
“I am very concerned about the derailments of railway cars containing dangerous goods in the past 12 months,” Garneau said in a statement issued earlier today. “That is why I am issuing an immediate order to slow trains carrying significant quantities of dangerous goods on federally regulated railway tracks across Canada.”
The order, which will take effect Friday at midnight, will require trains travelling through metropolitan areas to limit their speed to a maximum of 32 km/h, and 40 km/h everywhere else.
“This is a precautionary measure being taken today, as we are seeing similarities between this accident and other recent accidents such as weather conditions and speed,” Garneau said. “I have asked my officials to examine all issues related to these accidents to determine if additional safety measures will be required.”
The order was issued despite anticipated economic impacts, Garneau said.
“I cannot compromise on safety,” he said.
On Thursday morning, the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency said the village of Guernsey, Sask., was under a voluntary evacuation order after the CP crash earlier in the day.
The train went off the tracks and caught fire shortly after 6 a.m. CT more than 100 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon.
Previously, firefighters were going door to door in the village of approximately 100 people and were asking everyone to leave over smoke concerns.
The agency said 31 train cars derailed and 12 were on fire as of noon CT.
There were no injuries or fatalities, according to the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency.
It’s not known how fast the CP train was going.
In December, another CP Rail train leaked 1.5 million litres of crude oil after it derailed in the same area — 10 kilometres from the last derailment.
At the evacuation centre in nearby Lanigan, people forced from their homes expressed frustration at the situation.
“Another derailment and so close to Guernsey,” said Marilyn Bieber, who lives half a kilometre from the crash.
“Like, what the heck is going on?”
While no homes were immediately threatened, many people were concerned about other livestock and other animals left in the path of the smoke.
“Our neighbour has a bunch of cows and he’s taking care of the neighbour’s cows for the winter,” said Bieber.
“He also has pigs, and he’s really concerned about them. And, I mean, how do you evacuate all these pigs and cows?”
People at the centre were frustrated that no one was on site to provide any answers, or to tell them when they could go home.
Not surprisingly, people were in favour of building more pipelines to get oil off the rails.
“I don’t think outside of a pipeline there is any way to address it,” she said.
“I mean, the CP Rail crews actually went through not that long ago before the first accident occurred. Now we have a second one.”
It has been reported to the Transportation Safety Board that the train was carrying crude oil, and was travelling eastbound when it went off the tracks approximately 2.5 kilometres east of the village.
Eyewitness Kyle Brown said he saw a huge fire after the train derailed.
Brown was driving through the area when he saw what looked like a huge mushroom cloud in his rear-view mirror shortly after 6 a.m. CT.
“It looks like an inferno,” said Brown. “Like a war zone, really. It is pretty bad.”
When he saw the explosion, Brown raced toward the area. He estimated that between 25 and 30 cars were off the tracks.
CP Rail confirmed its train derailed at about 6:15 a.m. CT, and said emergency responders had been sent out and the company was making initial assessments of the site.
Humboldt RCMP have closed both lanes of Highway 16 and the junction with Highway 20. The public is asked to stay away from the area.
I can see flames and crumpled rail cars beneath the plume of black smoke <a href=”https://t.co/l8irDbxgJk”>pic.twitter.com/l8irDbxgJk</a>
Brown went to check on the train’s conductor and engineer to make sure everyone was alright.
He said one of the conductors set up flares on the road to warn motorists.
Another eyewitness, Patty Prentice, was driving to work as a home-care worker when she saw the derailment. She initially thought it was a fuel truck that had driven off the road and caught fire.
She soon realized how large the conflagration was.
“I’m like, ‘holy, is that hot,'” she said. “And how stupid we are to be driving by this right now.”
When she got to her office, she immediately contacted the hospital in Lanigan, about 13 kilometres away from the crash site.
“I said a prayer when I saw the first fire trucks leave Lanigan,” she said. “We’re just praying for the people that are out there taking care of this right now.”